Sharpen the Axe

Sharpen the AxeIf you were given the task to cut down as many trees as possible in a short window of time and were given a blunt axe, would you take the time to first sharpen the axe?

I have a confession to make.  Even though I would like to think I’m smart enough to say yes to sharpening the axe in such a task, I do find myself going to work with the equivalent of a blunt axe in my business and life.

It’s a habit of mine. I’m a doer!  This can be a great thing, because I do get things done …….. but are they the right things?  Perhaps you know someone prone to this too.

By jumping in and doing, am I spending much more time in the long run DOING these things than I need to.  Much like the lumberjack who works with a blunt axe, it can take longer and be more tiring to get the same amount of work done as you would with a sharp axe.

This is a good time of the year to discuss this as we head into a changing of the year.  Perhaps you are slowing down already, reflecting on what you have achieved in 2014, what worked, what didn’t?  I like to use my time between Christmas Day and New Year to sharpen my axe thoroughly – to spend extra time working on my goals, plans and strategies for the new year.

And this is something that should be done year round – every week, every month – whether you work for yourself, for someone else or are still studying.

Put it in your calendar as a fixed appointment.

Stephen R. Covey talks about Sharpening the Saw as habit no. 7 of highly effective people.  He refers to time spent to preserve and enhance oneself, addressing the physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  Paying attention to these areas helps to refresh, energize and opens you up to growth.

I hear too often from people in business that they do not have time.  They struggle to make times for workshops, meetings, mentoring or strategic exercises because they are too busy.   What they don’t realize is how these activities will save them time in the long run.

Do you get in the car and drive to a place you’ve never been to, or do you first find a map and plot a route that will get you there in the least time?  Planning saves time!

Do you start a business by trial and error, blindly taking one step at a time, or do you first create a plan and map out how you can succeed and profit?  Planning saves time and money!

Sharpening the axe = Working ON your business = Planning

Planning includes the vision, mission and goals; the risks and opportunities;  strategies – marketing, financial, team/partners as well as making time for furthering your skills and knowledge through reading, research and seminars/webinars/workshops.

Don’t know how to sharpen YOUR axe?  Working with someone who knows – a coach, a mentor or a group of peers.  Over the past year and a half I have been involved with an amazing team that have helped take me to another level of performance.  It’s the regular meetings, the learning, the tools and the accountability that keeps me focused on where I need to go.

Don’t think you have time to sharpen your axe or act?  Consider this – my friend was telling me about her gardening and how she set out to plant blueberries.  She was so excited she just went ahead and planted some seedlings without working out whether it was the right time of year and what were the right conditions for her plants to grow.  The plants died, much to her dismay, and she realized that before she tried again she had better do some research and planning.  Planning saves time, money and frustration.

Think what a little bit more planning ahead of time will help you achieve in 2015.  It will help your confidence knowing that you are working on and doing the right things that will ensure your success.  Schedule time in your calendar to work on the business of you.

What are you recommended tools and methods for working smart with a sharp axe that will help you succeed more easily and quickly?  Please share in the comments below.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

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